Friday, February 17, 2012

Worth reading about: ScanEagle Unmanned Aircraft System

As you read this, there are an estimated 20 Insitu ScanEagles on airborne surveillance duty somewhere on this planet.

Military buffs will probably remember the American-made ScanEagle Unmanned Aircraft System as the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that made a surprise appearance aboard the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) stealth frigate, RSS Steadfast, during a media embed in February 2009.

Insitu officials at the Singapore Airshow were tight-lipped about their customer list. But this blog understands that this machine can be categorised in the "worth reading about" category.

Richard Aplin, a business development manager with Insitu Pacific, said there are more than 1,000 ScanEagles in service worldwide. A sizeable number serve aboard warships that never operated UAVs before. Here's where the ScanEagle's compact, foldable launcher and Skyhook retrieval system allows space-challenged warships to operate and recover the UAVs out at sea.

"ScanEagles expand the reach of the commander who is now able to exert his influence a long way away," said Mr Aplin, adding that navies routinely send ScanEagles for over-the-horizon scouting missions.

ScanEagles can be operated by as few as two personnel - a pilot and sensor operator. However, prolonged usage will require the presence of a maintenance team.

It takes about 10 weeks to train a newbie to operate the ScanEagle system.

Some interesting trivia about the ScanEagle:
* Fielded by the United States Navy for NATO-led operations off the coast of Libya codenamed Operation Unified Protector.

* Provided an aerial watch during the April 2009 hostage rescue mission that freed the captain of the 1,092-TEU container vessel Maersk Alabama off Somalia.

* ScanEagles can send live, colour imagery to small boat crews tasked with executing Visit, Board, Search and Seizure missions. The eye-in-the-sky can also support compliant or non-compliant boardings by checking the blindside of vessels being approached by small boat teams.

* A ScanEagle can stay airborne for more than a day. While at sea or in the littoral zone, its mothership can send it over-the-horizon for a look-see without exposing the host warship to enemy surveillance.

* RSS Steadfast demonstrated its ability to operate UAVs when it launched and recovered a ScanEagle at night. The launch was witnessed by embedded Singaporean media (plus your's truly, who was already with RWS). ScanEagle's status with the RSN is unknown. As a side note, the RSN had also experimented with a shipborne UAV developed by DSO National Laboratories called NATALEE.


Anonymous said...

The sensor operator is the pilot. Does not require two people whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

Above is correct. There is no sensor operator. The operator fly's and operates the camera. Also, the aircraft is always operated with a team of people and they are usually dual qualified to fly and maintain it.

Anonymous said...

The ScanEagle on board RSS Steadfast IIRC is a block E with the extra fin on the fuselage which I mistaken for an antenna.

Think it's for more directional control with the bigger front end as shown below but not fitted in your pic then.

Jason Yip said...

Great Blog!!!

David Boey said...

Hi all,
The recommended crew size came from Insitu and is mentioned in company literature on ScanEagle.

That said, the one-person staffing mentioned by the Anonymous folks (above) is possible.

ScanEagle is one of those weird items where one is never quite sure whether it's officially in service with the SAF or not.

The embed aboard Steadfast showed off ScanEagle and was supposed to unveil another non-FFS embarked craft. This was pulled out and she never appeared. Pity.

Treasured the opportunity nonetheless. Of the three Service, I get the greatest kick out of being at sea, perhaps because my early mentors were naval officers.

Best regards,


Enar Delos said...

The Scanedge on board really looks great. Sounds like the sensor was not being operated and by the way thanks a lot for sharing this to us.